The following story was originally compiled for the Mixed Migration Review 2019 and has been reproduced here for wider access through this website’s readership.
4Mi survey conducted in Tripoli, January 2019.
I come from Ogun State in southwest Nigeria. After finishing high school, I worked for a while as a house
cleaner in a town near my home. It wasn’t paid well, and it was hard to make ends meet. I am divorced and had three children to take care of on my own. I felt trapped. Had life been easier financially, I would have been happy to stay in Nigeria, but I had a strong feeling things would be better in Europe and that I might meet a new partner there. I chose Germany because I have friends there, and we are often in touch via social media.
Friends and relatives told me the best way to get to Germany, and some even helped me pay for the trip and put me in touch with smugglers who could organise the journey. Soon after discussing my plans with one smuggler on the phone, it was time to go. I set off from Lagos and travelled by bus and car with smugglers through Benin to Niger.
In Niger, we stopped in the towns of Dosso and Agadez to meet new smugglers for the next legs of the trip and to earn some money to add to my savings. Sometimes the stopovers were short, as we were passed from one group of smugglers to another, sometimes I stayed for many weeks to earn enough money to continue. All this time I stayed in touch with friends and family using Facebook and WhatsApp on my smartphone. I also got useful information from my smugglers and fellow travelers.
What we went through in the desert there was not easy and much worse than I had expected. We really suffered at the hands of the soldiers. We paid bribes at two military checkpoints, but when our drivers saw another checkpoint in front, they decided to evade soldiers by taking a dangerous short cut. They didn’t know that some soldiers had seen us already. The soldiers began to pursue us in high-speed
vehicles. There was some shooting, and our drivers had to stop. The soldiers punished the two drivers seriously and took a lot of money from them. They ordered the passengers to get out of our vehicle and sleep on the sand. They made us suffer a lot before allowing us to go.
Later on, soldiers detained our group, including some children, for a whole day without giving us food or water. They wouldn’t even allow us to relieve ourselves. They abused us a lot verbally and in other ways too.
During the course of my journey I saw three people being sexually assaulted by security forces. In
Sabha, a town in southern Libya, I saw two women die as a result of their injuries after being abused physically and sexually. It was terrible to watch, really terrible, and I blame the smugglers for their deaths. When I saw what happened to them, I was very frightened because I realised exactly the same could easily happen to me.
Finally got to Libya. After one year, eight months, and 12 days on the road, I finally reached Tripoli in January 2019. At the time, we kept hearing about more and more fighting in the country. It was like a civil war. People trying to leave Libya for Europe were being stopped at sea by the Libyan coast guard
and brought back to detention centres. Those they didn’t catch ran the risk of drowning at sea and we heard the stories but we still wanted to go because life in Libya was very bad.
In Libya I also witnessed and actually experienced myself sexual assault and verbal abuse. I can’t really say who was responsible, but it was very common.By this time, I had spent half of the $2,800 I had budgeted for the whole trip, including $1,000 in smuggling fees and $75 in bribes I paid in Dosso and in the Libyan desert.
If I ever get to Germany, I hope to find a better standard of living, but I do not plan to stay there forever and don’t want my children or other relatives to join me there. I’m much closer to Europe now and I’m very hopeful. I would even tell others it was worth it.
‘Views from the ground’ presents six stories from migrants and refugees on the move, drawn directly from their responses to the 4Mi survey. As the surveys consist almost entirely of multiple-choice questions, these narratives, while presented in the first person, are not verbatim quotations, but they do faithfully reflect respondents’ answers and the geopolitical context of their journeys. 4Mi does not record names or other personally identifiable information and so all names are aliases.